What CTO Ayo Jimoh sees for Opternative's bright future

Sam Dewey

It doesn’t take an eye exam to see the potential of an online service like Opternative.

The company offers just that — digital eye exams that users can take from just about anywhere, so long as they have a computer and a smartphone. Results are sent for review to a licensed ophthalmologist, who then writes a prescription for your glasses and contacts. 
 
It’s a simple enough idea, but one that’s been hailed as a true disruptor of industry and a harbinger of the possibilities when technology and healthcare work in sync. Ayo Jimoh, the company’s CTO, is the tech mind behind the company’s crystal-clear vision. Here’s his take on growing his team and business in Chicago. 

What technologies power your business?

We’re powered by Amazon Web Services, like many tech startups, and take full advantage of the scalability, performance and security of the AWS suite of products. Behind that, we code in Ruby and Javascript, and when it comes to frameworks and libraries, we’re using Rails, Node, Angular, and D3. This stack made it very easy to get up and running with early prototypes while also providing us with a clear path to compliance with HIPAA.

From a technology standpoint, how has the company evolved since it launched?

Our greatest evolution has been in regard to our engineering team process and attention to application health. As we raced toward launch, there was a constant focus on quickly pushing out features at any cost and the debt piled up. Since then, we’ve taken a step back to revisit our overall product and engineering strategy. We’ve brought on stellar additions in engineering, product, and UX roles to allow for dedicated management of key functional areas. 2016 has been all about redefining our product development lifecycle and building the premier telemedicine platform that reflects our company mission and values.

What are the biggest tech projects your team is working on this year?

We’re currently working on overhauling our entire online eye exam infrastructure to improve performance, stability, and flexibility. This effort will set the stage for the next generation of exam features and functionality, which will blow our current patient experience out of the water.

Previously, we spent a large part of 2016 working on deep integration with our newly announced partner, 1-800 Contacts. Patients can now seamlessly transition between 1-800 Contacts and Opternative for an end-to-end contact lens solution, all from the comfort of home.

What are some lessons you've learned about working in Chicago that other local entrepreneurs can learn from?

With so many different types of companies getting off the ground, it may seem difficult to learn from the other startups in Chicago, but it’s quite the opposite. The large variety of business models being explored in Chicago provides the perfect culture and breeding ground for the exchange of ideas to solve all of our business challenges. We learned this first hand when we brought in hundreds of members of the Chicago tech community to help us test out our online eye exam technology. The Chicago community is vibrant, and understanding the methods of companies unlike yours can unlock new strategies for surmounting your obstacles.

Tell us about your team. What sets your tech team apart?

While our product team is small, we’re diverse in every way possible. Of the 11 people on my team, only four are white dudes, breaking away from the stereotypical startup mold. Our technical backgrounds range from CS and Design degrees to self-taught, and experience ranges from heavy in open-source technologies to others who were deep in the Microsoft stack. This diversity has created an immense amount of information sharing and experimentation while maintaining a strong foundation built on software engineering and user-centered design principles. Finally, we really click together. Whether it’s playing Mario Kart 64, competing on NikeFit, the barrage of Star Wars jokes, or our storied tradition of Malort, you can’t avoid having a great time on this team!

Anything else you want the Chicago startup community to know about what you're working on?

Our product is unlike any other out there, which welcomes both unforeseen roadblocks as well as the excitement of creating something from nothing. We are the first company to launch an online eye exam that generates a valid prescription and take a lot of pride and humility in our position in the Chicago tech community. We’re getting ready to launch our engineering blog and are excited to share more about the ongoings of the Opternative tech team. Stay tuned!

Images via Opternative. 

Have a CTO you'd like to nominate? Send us an email or tweet us@BuiltInChicago

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